The mill as it is today. Photographs by Hampton Gay Story Oxfordshire Copyright 2010
The Mill at Hampton Gay was one of the older buildings in the area, it became a paper mill in the 1680s. It began as a watermill and according to 'A history of the county of Oxford' by Mary Lobel was there in 1219. Osney Abbey owned the mill at this time. It became a grist mill until the Barry family leased it out in 1681 as a paper mill. We had read somewhere that the mill provided paper for the Oxford University Press so we contacted them to confirm this either way.
We were told by their archivist that the OUP never had paper supplied to them from the paper mill at Hampton Gay to the best of their knowledge, and that they certainly had no records of it. We were in fact told by them that in 1847 when the mill had been up for sale, the manager of the Wolvercote mill (who we think was with the OUP) considered buying Hampton Gay mill to help break down materials for use at the Wolvercote mill, but instead they bought the mill at Sandford in a bid to control the river levels around Oxford to Wolvercote's advantage.
In 1887 they did consider buying the mill again but didn't go through with it, possibly because it was only water powered and too expensive to modernise. If they had, perhaps the outcome of the mill would have been different from the ending we now know it had. (OUP and H.Carter - Wolvercote mill).
The mill's involvement with the train crash in 1874 was very intense, after the accident a place was needed to hold some of the dead and store rooms at the mill were set aside for this. Reports we have read say that Mr Robert Langton Pearson, the then tenant and his men cleaned the bodies and also that the mill provided much needed equipment at the time. The bodies lay at the mill for at least two days until inquests were held and the bodies taken away for burial.
Pearson later put in a claim with GWR for supplies used at the time of the accident, the original document is available to view at Oxfordshire History Centre.
There have been numerous owners and tenants in its time, we have a list started of these people which we will publish soon, we have also included people, mainly local, that were employed there. The 1851 census shows a 10 year old boy working at the mill.
In 1875 there was a fire at the mill, a map of that year shows where the Gas house and Boiler house were, this is the only real evidence we have of the layout of the mill.
The one thing we haven't been able to find is a picture of the mill as it was, but by using our research we have been able to find out that the area the mill took up was approx 12 acres. It was described as substantial, it had 2 water wheels, 3 rag boilers, at least 6 rooms for various stages of the paper production and drying lofts (1849). Clearly as there were fires at the mill, the buildings may have changed but we can from research, describe the building in part by the documents available to us.
1887 was to be the final year for the mill. By now brothers James and Benjamin New who had worked the paper mill had gone bankrupt, their case had been ongoing since 1886 and early in 1887 the stock at the mill was sold to pay their creditors.
In the paper mill directories of 1876, 1878 and 1882 the mill is listed under the name of 'Cherwell Mills'.
In 1891 The English Illustrated Magazine reports the mill as disused.
We are always looking for information on the mill and will update when we can.
With thanks to Dr Maw - Archivist of Oxford University Press who kindly gave us the information above from Harry Carter's book 'Wolvercote Mill'.